Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Shining a light of hope at the pharmacy October 5, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo January 2021.

SHE VOCALIZED HER DISTRESS not to me specifically. But in general. In the pharmacy waiting area at a local grocery store.

I’d just arrived to get my seasonal flu shot, the powered-up version for those 65 and older, when a woman familiar to me expressed dismay over the price of her medication. Medication she couldn’t afford because she was on limited disability income. That much she shared publicly with those of us waiting. Hers was not a plea for help, but rather frustration released in words not directed at anyone. Simply spoken.


In that moment, my heart broke. My empathy swelled. I recall standing at that same pharmacy window not all that long ago feeling overwhelmed by the cost of a necessary medication for a family member without insurance coverage or income. I was on the verge of tears. I didn’t turn away from the window then and unleash my despair. But rather I spoke my anguish to the pharmacy employee. And, on that day when I felt such angst over the price of a med, that caring employee found a discount that made the prescription affordable.

Now here I was, presented with an opportunity. I could ignore the distress I heard in someone I knew—but who didn’t recognize me in my face mask—or I could choose to help. I would like to write that I reacted immediately. But I didn’t. Rather I pondered briefly before reaching into my bag to remove a $20 bill. Money from a check I’d cashed a half hour earlier. Payment for photo rights sold at a discount to a nonprofit. Unexpected income that I could use, but which this woman needed more than me.


I called her by name, then extended my hand toward her with the $20. “Here, I want you to take this to help pay for your prescription.” She accepted with a smile. And a surprised look on her face. And a generous “thank you” shining a sliver of sunshine into the darkness of financial worry.

As I waited, she did, too. We didn’t converse further. Soon a pharmacy employee called her to the window. They’d found a generic brand of her medication. Presumably more affordable. She returned to me, to return the $20. I declined. “You keep it,” I said. And she did.


Afterwards, when I shared with my husband about this encounter and my gift, I started crying. The emotion of remembering when I was that woman in line at the pharmacy rushed back in those tears. I recalled, too, how extended family and friends helped us during a challenging period in our family’s life and how I’ve felt the blessings of kindness and generosity from others (including those who read this blog). How loved and encouraged and supported I felt.


There’s another twist to this story worth noting. I initially planned to get my flu vaccine at the grocery store’s advertised drive-up clinic. But there was/is no drive-up clinic (much to my dismay). Because of that, I had to go inside the store to the pharmacy. That put me in the path of this woman—who lost her husband several years ago—and in a position to help. Moments like this happen for a reason. And even though $20 is not a lot of money, it was/is more about the uplifting of another human being. I hope my small gift brought her hope, showed that someone cares, that she matters. That even in the distress of financial worry, sunshine slants through the darkness.


TELL ME: Have you had a similar opportunity to extend compassion or been the recipient of kindness? I’d like to hear. Now, more than ever, we need the sunshine of goodness shining into our days.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


20 Responses to “Shining a light of hope at the pharmacy”

  1. beth Says:

    I have so been on both sides of this and it made me cry to read it. I understand completely. due to my experience I always try to help in small quiet ways where I can and sometimes it can make all the difference to someone.

  2. Beverly A Walker Says:

    A few weeks ago my widows group went to a local restaurant for our monthly outing. While we were waiting for our checks, an older gentleman who was dining next to us with his wife/lady friend came to our table and told us his story. The lady he was with was his intended bride in a month but they knew and worked together about 40 years ago. Her husband died over 20 years ago and his wife died over a year ago. They were celebrating their upcoming wedding and wanted to pay for our suppers! We told him this was our widows outing and he said he figured as much..We were all so happy for his generosity and for their new found love. One of the ladies did joke that if she knew someone was going to buy us supper, she would have ordered something more expensive!! There are kind people and we just need to hear more about it! Thanks for you story also!

    • Oh, dear cousin Bev, I adore this story of kindness. Thank you for taking the time to share your joy in this unexpected gift and in meeting a couple who found new love in one another. This simply makes me happy. I am also happy that you have a loving circle of friends.

  3. Sometimes, the smallest act can make the biggest impact. ❤

  4. So sweet and brought tears to my eyes. I think we all have been in a situation similar to this and were so grateful when an act of kindness and generosity was given by a kind and caring person that helped with no asking to do so. We certainly need more kindness and goodness and to share that with each other too. Smiling, holding a door open, giving, caring, supporting, etc. You know me in that I try to be on the positive side of things most days as well as help where I can. You are like a kindred spirit right there with me in doing so too 🙂 Happy Day – Enjoy


    I love reading about random acts of kindness. We have had the pleasure of being recipients (the relief of stress) and felt the joy of giving (a full heart), just as you have. Doing it spontaneously, as you did, makes it extra special.

  6. Louise and Robert Flom Says:

    We were in Africa a few years ago and we were in a small convenience type store buying school supplies for a school that we were going to visit. There was a young couple ahead of us in the check out lane. She was carrying a small baby on her back. They had a cart of groceries. Nothing but necessary grocery items. As we watched, they started to take items out of their cart. We asked the cashier what they were doing. She said they did not have enough money. Right away we said we would pay for their groceries. They were so overwhelmed. The smiles on their faces and the expressions of thanks was way more valuable than the money we paid. We will always have that “feel good ” memory.

    • Oh, Lousie, thank you for sharing that story of your generosity with me and my readers. My heart feels such gratitude to you and Bob for your spontaneous act of kindness. You were blessed as much, if not more, than that young family. Thank you for being so loving and caring.

  7. jhc1218 Says:

    I’ve been on both sides, as well. The stranger in front of me at Chipotle struck up a conversation, and she ended up paying for my lunch. She was gone before I could thank her. Recently, there was a women in the next town over that needed help with a colicky baby. The pediatrician recommended a special bassinet so the mom of multiple children could rest. A few of us were able to provide her with the funds to rent one for a few months. In neither of these cases did we know each other, just saw another human and helped where we could. While the money may be critical, it’s more important to be seen.


  8. Unexpected acts of kindness shed light in the darkest of places. Set the example, pass it forward, continue to act like today is your last day and the last act of kindness will be felt and remembered long after your ripple of life is gone.

  9. Sandra Says:

    Our family was on the receiving end for so many years, there’s not enough time or space here. Grateful to hear the pharmacies are still going that extra mile. Poirier Pharmacy enabled Mother (MS from 1952 to her death at 91 in 1999) to pursue help from the UofMN Clinic research, except they sent us back with 3 mo. trial drugs prescriptions that in 1958 cost a fortune on her 1957 deceased husband’s pension. Poirier helped, I have no idea how, but if one drug had helped, she’d been part of a research study, everyone reimbursed, I presume. She was only 51, not on Medicare yet, but Dr. Meyer was so hopeful. Wasn’t to be. I was the 15 yr old driver of the ’51 Nash Ambassador to the cities, into the Univ. campus. (At 78 I don’t drive there now!) A teen, and two adults without licenses (Mother and her older sister), of course we had a flat on the highway one trip. An angel appeared. There are still angels everywhere, like you and the other stories. Bless your good example and meaningful descriptive verse! There were so many people thanking Mother through the years, she lived independently until her death. Her home health workers, her friends, wouldn’t know where to begin. I like to believe whenever possible, she did her part paying it forward with whatever she had. I’ve certainly had a few angels in my adult life.

  10. Your gift of $20 was much more than just a gift of money. It was a lifeline to that woman. She will always remember it because it was so much more than just handing her a 20 dollar bill. We are presented with opportunities every single day and it is often difficult to see them when we get wrapped up in life but you saw and responded. Good for you. I know you did not write about this to get praise for your actions but hopefully it will inspire one of your readers to do something similar when they are presented with the opportunity.

    We are all so capable of doing great things by doing small things. It is up to each of us to keep our eyes open and just react . Thank you for sharing your experience.

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